Birdbooker Report 310

3 March 2014 by GrrlScientist, posted in Birdbooker Report

SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. This week's titles include; The Sixth Extinction; Searching for Pekpek: Cassowaries and Conservation in the New Guinea Rainforest; An Eye for Nature: The Life and Art of William T. Cooper; and The Extreme Life of the Sea.

“Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin.
Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.)

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

~ Arnold Lobel [1933-1987] author of many popular children's books.

Compiled by Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen, the Birdbooker Report is a weekly report that has been published online for years, listing the wide variety of nature, natural history, ecology, animal behaviour, science and history books that have been newly released or republished in North America and in the UK. The books listed here were received by Ian during the previous week, courtesy of various publishing houses.

New and Recent Titles:

  1. Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. 2014. Henry Holt. Hardbound: 319 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S. [Amazon UK/audiobook CD UK; Amazon US/kindle US/audiobook CD US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in conservation should read this book.
  2. Mack, Andrew L. Searching for Pekpek: Cassowaries and Conservation in the New Guinea Rainforest. 2014. Cassowary Conservation and Publishing. Paperback: 235 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US]
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Andrew Mack immersed himself in a vast expanse of roadless, old growth rainforest of Papua New Guinea in 1987.
    He and his co-investigator Debra Wright, built a research station by hand and lived there for years. Their mission was to study the secretive and perhaps most dinosaur-like creature still roaming the planet: the cassowary.
    The ensuing adventures of this unorthodox biologist -- studying seeds found in cassowary droppings (pekpek), learning to live among the indigenous Pawai'ia, traversing jungles, fighting pests and loneliness, struggling against unscrupulous oil speculators, and more--are woven into a compelling tale that spans two decades. Mack shares the insights he garnered about rainforest ecology while studying something as seemingly mundane as cassowary pekpek. He ultimately gained profound insight into why conservation is failing in places like Papua New Guinea and struggled to create a more viable strategy for conserving some of Earth's last wild rainforests.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in New Guinean conservation should read this book.
  3. Olsen, Penny. An Eye for Nature: The Life and Art of William T. Cooper. 2014. NLA Publishing. Hardbound: 278 pages. Price: $55.00 U.S.
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the work of artist William T. Cooper, platypuses swim in green underwater worlds, waves throw up blankets of spray, embers glow in the aftermath of a bushfire, a Thylacine emerges from the shadows, sniffing the air. But it is his paintings of birds which set Cooper apart -- his raucous cockatoos, colourful parrots, animated turacos and flamboyantly displaying birds of paradise. Often placed in meticulously studied landscapes, these intricate bird portraits reveal Cooper’s close observation not only of his subjects’ appearance, but their habits, poses and behaviour.
    In this biography, Penny Olsen traces the path of Cooper’s life and art -- from his childhood spent in the bush, to his teenage years as an apprentice taxidermist at Carey Bay Zoo and, later, to his work as a window dresser and landscape artist. She documents his fruitful partnership with wife and collaborator Wendy Cooper and his extensive travels in Australia and abroad in pursuit of his subjects. Olsen’s commentary reveals the development of an artist and the trajectory of a life, while extracts from Cooper’s extensive field notebooks give an insight into his interests and processes.
    Illustrated with photographs, paintings and sketches, and includes a portfolio of bird and landscape paintings that have never before been published. The foreword is by David Attenborough.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: This book is a MUST have for fans of William T. Cooper's artwork! The book is available in the USA from Buteo Books and in the UK from
  4. Palumbi, Stephen R. and Anthony R. Palumbi. The Extreme Life of the Sea. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 225 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US/audible US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. The Extreme Life of the Sea takes readers to the absolute limits of the ocean world -- the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents -- and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches -- to show how marine life thrives against the odds. This thrilling book brings to life the sea's most extreme species, and tells their stories as characters in the drama of the oceans. Coauthored by Stephen Palumbi, one of today's leading marine scientists, The Extreme Life of the Sea tells the unforgettable tales of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and the challenges they overcome to survive. Modern science and a fluid narrative style give every reader a deep look at the lives of these species.
    The Extreme Life of the Sea shows you the world's oldest living species. It describes how flying fish strain to escape their predators, how predatory deep-sea fish use red searchlights only they can see to find and attack food, and how, at the end of her life, a mother octopus dedicates herself to raising her batch of young. This wide-ranging and highly accessible book also shows how ocean adaptations can inspire innovative commercial products -- such as fan blades modeled on the flippers of humpback whales -- and how future extremes created by human changes to the oceans might push some of these amazing species over the edge.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: For those with a general interest in marine biology.

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Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen is an avid book collector who is especially well-known to the publishing world. Ian collects newly-published books about nature, animals and birds, science, and history, and he also collects children's books on these topics. Ian writes brief synopses about these books on his website, The Birdbooker Report.

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